Between Relating and Use (2018, Argentina/USA, 9 min, 16mm)
Shape of a Surface (2017, Turkey, 9 min, 16mm)
Solitary Acts (4,5,6) (2015, USA, 11 min, 16mm)
Untitled (2016, USA, 12 min, Digital)
Instructions on How to Make a Film (2018, USA , 13 min, 16mm)
Nazlı Dinçel in attendance!
Among the various concerns that inform the films of Turkish-born, US-based artist and filmmaker Nazlı Dinçel is a recurring interest in touch. Working exclusively on 16mm film – with the material frequently accented by hand-scratched interventions – Dinçel's intimate and beguiling work returns repeatedly to images and themes of intimacy, her films populated by bodies seen most often in fragments, both isolated and in embrace.
With a poetic form that manages to be erudite while never staid and confessional while never narcissistic, Dinçel's films present sex, desire, and modes of exploration to be variously pleasurable and pained, sites where trauma sits alongside ecstasy. This program includes a selection of films produced since 2015, including the Toronto Premiere of several recent works.
Tuesday 12 February 2019
Doors 6:30 PM | Screening 7:00 PM
$7 General Admission | $5 Students
Jackman Hall (317 Dundas St W.) - McCaul Street Entrance
Co-presented by cléo journal
Nazlı Dinçel’s hand-made work reflects on experiences of disruption. She records the body in context with arousal, immigration, dislocation and desire with the film object: its texture, color and the tractable emulsion of the 16mm material. Her use of text as image, language and sound imitates the failure of memory and her own displacement within a western society. Born in Ankara, Turkey, Dinçel immigrated to the United Sates at age 17. Dinçel resides in Milwaukee, WI where she is currently building an artist run film laboratory. She obtained her MFA in filmmaking from UW-Milwaukee. Her works have been exhibited in numerous venues around the world including Tiger Shorts competition at IFFR, NYFF, BAFICI, EIFF and HKIFF.
She recently won the Helen Hill Award at the 2018 Orphan Film Symposium, the Eileen Maitland Award at the 2018 AAFF, Jury Awards at 2018 ICdocs and MUFF for Between Relating and Use (2018)
In addition to exhibiting with institutions, Dinçel avidly self-distributes and tours with her work in micro-cinemas, artist run laboratories and alternative screening spaces in order to support and circulate handmade filmmaking to communities outside of institutions.
Elena Gorfinkel is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at King’s College London. She is the author of Lewd Looks: American Sexploitation Cinema in the 1960s (Minnesota, 2017) and co-editor of Global Cinema Networks (Rutgers, 2018) and Taking Place: Location and the Moving Image (Minnesota, 2011). Her research on sexuality, embodiment, women’s film practice, and marginal cinemas appears in Camera Obscura, Cinema Journal/JCMS, Screen, Framework, Discourse, Jump Cut, World Picture. She also writes criticism for Sight & Sound and Art Monthly.
Recalcitrant Objects, Carnal Subjects: On Nazlı Dinçel’s Cinema
By Elena Gorfinkel
Creased, sun-drenched, sweating skin, crushed flower petals and stamens, a stabbed pomegranate bleeding juice, peeled fingernail polish, sexual organs in states of arousal and tumescence, lipstick slathering lips till it covers the teeth, fingers digging into dirt and excavating loam, an inverted open mouth holding a mirror, marble torsos animated by refraction, tremulous flesh tenderly exposed for the camera. The material heft of Nazlı Dinçel’s films bespeak an embodiment that suffers vulnerability and roughness, its materiality seductive in its raggedness as much as its smoothness. Dinçel’s cinematic sensorium is neither romantic nor idealist. She instead investigates the image’s textured obstinacy. Born in Ankara, Turkey, Dinçel has lived and worked in the United States from the age of seventeen. Her practice is informed by this experience of emigration, and fuses an interest in the affects of displacement with the disorientations of female desire, thus contending with the recalcitrance of the flesh when it crosses paths with the camera’s gaze. What does it mean to film bodies in a way that foregrounds their objectness, both from the position of the object’s subjugation and of that same object’s animacy, insolence and refusal?
Dinçel’s work discloses how impoverished our semiotic understanding of cinematic bodies continues to be. Her films offer a forceful set of reversals, incitements, and manipulations of sound, text and image, a tussling with the filmic material that is both intimate and agonistic. Dinçel’s work engages variously with traditions of hand-processed cinema, the avant-garde’s interrogation of the epistemological claims film images make, and feminist critiques of sexual representation. It summons Schneemann and Reeves, Beavers and Frampton, Smith and Brakhage, Uman and Nelson. Dinçel’s sound-image relations seem to scramble certain key presumptions about the self-evidence of self-portraiture, the force of female sexual disclosure, the relationship between documentation and fabrication, and the situatedness of the camera in relation to that which it captures. Capture for Dinçel is both erotic and violent, and the ragged and luscious aspects of her images frequently intermingle in unexpected ways. Whether in the diaristic retelling of rude sexual awakenings in Solitary Acts #4, #5 & #6, the snippets of awkward pillow talk, sexual negotiation and repartee of Her Silent Seaming, or the didactic language borrowed from a layman’s filmmaking manual in Instructions on How to Make a Film, what appears at first as discomfiting self-exposure, as a confessional gesture, or as flatly literal is ultimately revealed to be polysemous, slippery, and unfixed.
In Solitary Acts #4, the directness of female masturbation is one example of such hydra-headed signification. Dinçel presents her body in close-up as filmic material – a proximity at once “depersonalising” and anonymising, yet also bracingly public. Sparkly lacquered fingernails rub clitoris and vulva, as the hand-processed 16mm flickers past, accompanied by text typed, scarred, and etched into the emulsion. The filmmaker’s halting voice narrates her first sexual experiences as a pre-teen — including the suppression of her sexuality by family figures that sought to contain her incipient exploration, and her tenacious circumnavigation — using shower heads, vegetables to conquer her curiosity for pleasure against the rising whispers of shame. The pastness summoned by this recollection meets the reverse chronology of the film strip, a jerking off in reverse. Various textures collide: voice, text, genitality, the raw directness of female sexual pleasure as facticity, event, self-making. What does sequence mean for a female orgasm expended, wound backwards? The telos of pleasure-seeking, so structured by the phallic economies of a pornographic imaginary, is dispersed and disoriented by the film’s frontal address and pull towards past selves and personal histories. The filmed sex act demands we ask who authors on-screen pleasure, who claims bodies’ utterances and expressions of lust or longing as much as their ambivalence, their inadvisable acts, their waywardness?
Solitary Acts #5 presents the simultaneity of indulgence and judgment, as the bathroom becomes the site of purloined, inchoate pleasures, pursued at the edge of permissibility in the context of the filmmaker’s Turkish upbringing. The film recounts Dinçel's grandmother’s declaration that young Naz will not make a good Muslim, as she eats in the bathroom. The humour of appetite intervenes, as we are told that “she lost her virginity to a carrot.” The film veers towards phasic expansion and disalignment, as the oral stage threatens to swallow genitality and reproductive drives altogether. Dinçel weaves a tale of immersion in self-pleasure that leads to being eaten up by one’s own hunger. Dinçel shoots herself kissing her own reflection, consuming the image’s surface: where does the body draw its limit, assert its end in an edge, and separate from its desire for infinite self-extension?
Solitary Acts #6 is no less incendiary. A revision of the Oedipal myth, it moves between the story of an abortion and a fantasy of that aborted son as lover, while also featuring the frontal masturbation of an estranged male friend. The friend’s disturbance at feeling exploited by Dinçel’s filming is metabolised by the filmmaker reading his objections on the soundtrack; as reconciliation, he reads her letter to him in turn, as it breaks up, becoming illegible, out of order and sync, words falling away. The friends’s masturbatory performance enlists the viewer’s complicity in the pleasures and vertiginous erotics of the image. Dinçel insists on feminine jouissance and a fundamental right to contradictoriness, risk, and provocation.
Foregrounding the primacy of corporeal presence, Dinçel also surprises in how her images disrupt discourses on haptic cinema. Phenomenological approaches to sensory transfer often suggest what Maurice Merleau-Ponty posited as a “reversibility” of the flesh, in which the toucher and touched are chiasmatically entwined in an egalitarian equivalence. Dinçel’s images, while indeed demonstrating this element of filmic tactility, also propose something different. Touch can be uneven, a perturbation, a rending: touch is thus folded into the anachronistic temporalities of cinema, a rupturing of place and time that leaves one catching up or lagging behind.
Such disturbances are also spatial. Shape of a Surface is organized by a sense of striving: to see and to feel the before and the after, the in front of and the behind; to secure a total view. This film connects the cinematic apparatus to the maker; the camera is held close, extending from her body, as she traverses ruins in the Turkish city of Aphrodisias. Shooting with her camera at waist level, lens downcast, we see Dinçel’s sandaled feet walking up stone steps. Views of ancient ruins, columns and architectural relics appear, yet the camera movement discloses that we are seeing images and objects in reflection. As the hand mirror that Dinçel's film uses is made visible, two landscapes overlap in supersession. The view behind the camera is supplanted by that which is behind the mirror, and in front of the camera. Headless marble statues give way to a living, posing male torso, as the presumptive desire of a tactile journeying meets the myths of Narcissus and Aphrodite. Dinçel’s approach to tactility always retains on the one hand an element of necessary violation and on the other a deromanticisation of an idealist fusion of body and image, celluloid and performance, apparatus and the labor that keeps it moving, sewing the image into place.
This ambivalence can be sourced from multiple locations. Formed by the displacements of migration Dinçel’s cinema is imbued by the strangeness of the code-making, code-breaking repetitions of language, typed, stamped, and scraped into the celluloid. The words, stories, songs, texts and philosophical screeds that populate her films frequently exist at multiple removes, abstracted through the perspective and eyes of one who never doesn’t feel one’s strangeness, as both gendered and culturally located subject. If a logic of fundamental displacement is at the crux of cinema’s capacity to reorder the relations between space and time, here Dinçel makes such displacements overt and transparent, while preserving the out-of-place’s fundamentally perverse perspective: alternative frames for looking, thinking, and feeling.
The labor of these films bears an insistent impress, never concealing Dinçel’s presence and centrality as authorising, animating hand. Her meticulous work on the image – be it the threading of fishhook string, the systematic scratching away at emulsion, the handprocessing in varied liquids and baths, the conversion of sounds into image and images into sound material – bespeak a holding close of the material. There is a careful nearness that is less about an idealist dismantling of enigma than a literal holding pattern: a repetition, an assertion, an inscription; a holding that signals containment, tending, and care. Hands appear repeatedly in Dinçel’s images. They hold and caress in gestures of affection; they also probe, excavate and destroy, bringing the traces of the filmmaker’s repetitive corporeal incorporation and manipulation into relief.
In her most recent works, the logics of displacement oscillate between relations to place and relations to bodies and subjects. In Between Relating and Use, Dinçel’s interest in incorporation and subsumption takes the form of a treatise on the linkages between fetishism in its erotic and ethnographic dimensions. How might the fetish outlive or survive its objectification? Melding the ideas of D.W. Winnicott’s psychology of object relations and Laura Marks' account of cultural fetishism, Dinçel volleys between the seemingly opposed realms of the public and cultural, and the private and relational.
In Instructions on How to Make a Film, Dinçel wittily fuses several genres; the instruction manual (whether for farming or filmmaking), the bucolic nature study, and a lexical thought experiment that incorporates layers of sources, texts, theories, The naiveté of the instructional text and its vernacular advice as read by Dinçel becomes slowly knowing, as the image curiously links filmmaking processes to the work of cultivating land. The act of harvest extends to seizing images of bodies erotically engulfed, extremities submerged in various forms. Images of grass, dirt, and flowers yield to a nude male at a lake in a painterly repose, followed by an erect penis wreathed in wildflowers and a blow job with a tight, planimetric composition that highlights the act’s abstracted yet intimate apprehension. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett’s theories of exhibition as performance are introduced, another conceptual strand in the dialectics of image, voice, text. The lesson of the ethnographic artefact becomes a tutor code of part/whole relations which resolve into an oscillation between body parts and wholistic selves, suggesting the impossibility of totalising views. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett’s metaphor of the artefact resonates: displayed in a vitrine, it remains a fragment of human relations, despite its alienation from those contexts. Dincel proposes that cinema too is such a vitrine, but it is also a petri dish: a glassy surface that hosts the metabolism and growth of vital forms.
Bodies and things, and the way bodies are transformed into cinematic things, arresting and luminous, concerns Dinçel across her works – whether these are the subject of psychological entanglement, awkward or unequal relationships, spaces of vulnerability and risk, or the subject of ethnographic, colonial and ideological projection and oppression. The tensions, slippages, and transfers between these processes animates the curiosity, perversity and trenchancy of Dinçel’s radically carnal gaze.